IIf you’ve been paying attention to this year’s presidential election, I don’t have to tell you that the campaign’s been full of brashness or meanness. If it were limited to Donald Trump saying untoward things toward his political opponents–first in the Republican primaries, and now with Hillary Clinton–that would be one thing. But the sad fact is that it’s extending to his followers, and in the past few weeks, I’ve been a recipient of some aggressive behavior.
And what’s to blame? What did I do to “invite” this? I have bumper stickers on my car. Specifically, pro-Hillary Clinton and pro-Barack Obama stickers.
In one incident, I got out of my liberal car in a parking lot, and two pre-teen boys saw me. One of them yelled “Make America great again” at me; that, of course, being the Trump campaign slogan. Sincere political involvement at their young age is a great thing … except that in this case, it felt much more like taunting by two boys who were, in fact, bantering rather than engaging in educated political dialogue.
In another incident a few weeks later, I found that my “I trust Obama” sticker had a rebuttal attached to it–someone had written “Trust me, you’re an a**hole” and taped it to my bumper with black electrical tape.
In the grand scheme of things, what’s happened to me is nothing compared to the relentless bullying that some kids face because they’re different and because some people see that different as an affront or a threat. But just the very fact that two different people on different days felt that bumper stickers warranted a retaliation of some kind is a worrying sign that we collectively lack a sense of goodwill toward one another, or even tolerance, or even restraint.
In the case with the two boys in the parking lot, I wonder if either of them would have mustered the courage to yell something at me had he been alone. Some bullies find it hard to operate if they don’t have an audience or don’t feel that they have numbers in their favor.
But I also wonder how pre-teen boys decide they have the right to do what they did to an older woman minding her own business, attempting to taunt me about an election that they can’t even vote in!
This is just the latest reminder for me that we all have a responsibility to teach tolerance. In our law firm, we’re concerned about the welfare of children, and we’re very tuned in to how divorce can impact children. Those who are susceptible to bullying are often doing so out of some hurt that they’re experiencing, and kids of all ages pick up on cues from their parents. If parents are acting in untoward ways to one another in a divorce case, those tensions carry over to the children, and though those might dissipate or might be let out in healthy ways, we don’t need to risk it. The last thing we need–especially in a year in which a bully might become president–is more bullies.